Poetry Explorer- Classic Contemporary Poetry, AN ELEGY (7), by BEN JONSON



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AN ELEGY (7), by             Poet's Biography
First Line: Tis true, I'm broke! Vows, oaths, and all I had
Last Line: Rather than want your light, I wish a grave.


'Tis true, I'm broke! Vows, oaths, and all I had
Of credit lost. And I am now run mad:
Or do upon myself some desperate ill;
This sadness makes no approaches, but to kill.
It is a darkness hath blocked up my sense,
And drives it in to eat on my offence,
Or there to starve it. Help, O you that may
Alone lend succours, and this fury stay.
Offended mistress, you are yet so fair,
As light breaks from you, that affrights despair,
And fills my powers with persuading joy,
That you should be too noble to destroy.
There may some face or menace of a storm
Look forth, but cannot last in such a form.
If there be nothing worthy you can see
Of graces, or your mercy here in me,
Spare your own goodness yet; and be not great
In will and power, only to defeat.
God, and the good, know to forgive, and save.
The ignorant, and fools, no pity have.
I will not stand to justify my fault,
Or lay the excuse upon the vintner's vault;
Or in confessing of the crime be nice,
Or go about to countenance the vice,
By naming in what company 'twas in,
As I would urge authority for sin.
No, I will stand arraigned, and cast, to be
The subject of your grace in pardoning me,
And (styled your mercy's creature) will live more
Your honour now, than your disgrace before.
Think it was frailty, mistress, think me man,
Think that yourself like heaven forgive me can:
Where weakness doth offend, and virtue grieve,
There greatness takes a glory to relieve.
Think that I once was yours, or may be now;
Nothing is vile, that is a part of you:
Error and folly in me may have crossed
Your just commands; yet those, not I be lost.
I am regenerate now, become the child
Of your compassion; parents should be mild:
There is no father that for one demerit,
Or two, or three, a son will disinherit --
That is the last of punishments is meant:
No man inflicts that pain, till hope be spent.
An ill-affected limb (whate'er it ail)
We cut not off, till all cures else do fail:
And then with pause; for severed once, that's gone,
Would live his glory that could keep it on;
Do not despair my mending; to distrust
Before you prove a medicine, is unjust.
You may so place me, and in such an air
As not alone the cure, but scar be fair.
That is, if still your favours you apply,
And not the bounties you have done, deny.
Could you demand the gifts you gave, again?
Why was it? Did e'er the clouds ask back their rain?
The sun his heat, and light, the air his dew?
Or winds the spirit, by which the flower so grew?
That were to wither all, and make a grave
Of that wise nature would a cradle have!
Her order is to cherish, and preserve,
Consumption's nature to destroy, and starve.
But to exact again what once is given,
Is nature's mere obliquity! As heaven
Should ask the blood, and spirits he hath infused
In man, because man hath the flesh abused.
O may your wisdom take example hence,
God lightens not at man's each frail offence,
He pardons slips, goes by a world of ills,
And then his thunder frights more, than it kills.
He cannot angry be, but all must quake,
It shakes even him, that all things else doth shake.
And how more fair, and lovely looks the world
In a calm sky; than when the heaven is hurled
About in clouds, and wrapped in raging weather,
As all with storm and tempest ran together.
O imitate that sweet serenity
That makes us live, not that which calls to die.
In dark, and sullen morns; do we not say
This looketh like an execution day?
And with the vulgar doth it not obtain
The name of cruel weather, storm, and rain?
Be not affected with these marks too much
Of cruelty, lest they do make you such.
But view the mildness of your Maker's state,
As I the penitent's here emulate:
He, when he sees a sorrow such as this,
Straight puts off all his anger, and doth kiss
the contrite soul, who hath no thought to win
Upon the hope to have another sin
Forgiven him; and in that line stand I,
Rather than once displease you more, to die,
To suffer tortures, scorn, and infamy,
What fools, and all their parasites can apply;
The wit of ale, and genius of the malt
Can pump for; or a libel without salt
Produce; though threatening with a coal, or chalk
On every wall, and sung where e'er I walk.
I number these as being of the chore
Of contumely, and urge a good man more
Than sword, or fire, or what is of the race
To carry noble danger in the face:
There is not any punishment, or pain,
A man should fly from, as he would disdain.
Then mistress, here, here let your rigour end,
And let your mercy make me ashamed t'offend.
I will no more abuse my vows to you,
Than I will study falsehood, to be true.
O, that you could but by dissection see
How much you are the better part of me!
How all my fibres by your spirit do move,
And that there is no life in me, but love.
You would be then most confident, that though
Public affairs command me now to go
Out of your eyes, and be awhile away;
Absence, or distance, shall not breed decay.
Your form shines here, here fixed in my heart:
I may dilate myself, but not depart.
Others by common stars their courses run,
When I see you, then I do see my sun,
Till then 'tis all but darkness, that I have;
Rather than want your light, I wish a grave.





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